Online Relationships with Wrestlers

Audience Studies, Works-In-Process

This piece goes to the work I am doing on convergent wrestling.

Writing back in 2006, Henry Jenkins discussed how convergence culture was allowing more fans to have more power. Basically, in this context, convergence culture is this idea that digital technologies like smartphones and the internet have blurred the lines between audiences and producers.

In the past, television and movies would separate out those who produce the media and those who consume the media; in other words, audiences would simply have to take what they were given, and they did not have much say over production. Since the rise of the internet, and especially social media, audiences do have more say: they can talk to producers before, during, and after a television show, or movie, or game, or whatever is produced. As Jenkins (2006) said, “Shows which attract strong fan interests have a somewhat stronger chance of surviving.” That means, if the producers listen to what the fans want, then their productions will do better. Or, at least, that is the idea.

Ten years later, Kresnicka’s (2016) writing reiterates this power of fans by relating it to the “digital empowerment” that has been happening in various areas of life since Web 2.0 and the emergence of social media. With social media, people can connect to one another, control what they consume, create their own content (and thus have their own voices heard), collaborate with others, and curate the information that is out there (dictating what is good and bad in the process). These 5 Cs (Pavlik & McIntosh, 2011) represent some pretty amazing powers given to “ordinary” people, taking away some of the power that had before just been in the hands of producers, politicians, librarians, teachers, and so forth. And this fundamental shift that has led to digital empowerment has been impacting the relationship between media producers, celebrities, and athletes, and their fans.

Let’s look at this in terms of sports – well, sports entertainment, or professional wrestling.

Before They Were Superstars: Daniel Bryan and Dean Ambrose

Before They Were Superstars

Daniel Bryan and Dean Ambrose spent a good portion of 2013 wrestling each other. They either fought in tag matches or a few singles matches on Raw or Smackdown. None of these matches were as hard hitting as their No-Disqualification war for Dragon Gate USA in 2010.

Daniel Bryan found himself without a job after being a little too brutal during the initial attack of The Nexus. During this time, he ended up going back on the independent circuit and wrestling under his real name again, Bryan Danielson.  He had a few matches for Dragon Gate USA where he wrestled the Japanese talent, YAMATO and Shingo Takagi.  For his final match, he wrestled the unstable Jon Moxley.

Breaking the Fourth Wall in Reverse

Audience Studies, Works-In-Process, Wrestler Studies

Mr_CanadaWithout a doubt, one of the proudest moments of my life occurred on January 29, 2013, when I made my professional wrestling debut in a tag-team match in a show co-hosted by American Pro Wrestling, an upstate South Carolina based promotion, and Wofford College, the institution that made me a tenured professor the year before. I wrestled that night as Mr. Canada, a masked, French-Canadian heel; my partner was Ben Wright, whom APW had named its 2012 “Heel of the Year.” We lost our match in fantastic fashion: after I “accidentally” broke my hockey stick across my partner’s chest, he was then demolished through a ringside table, while I was shamefully de-masked – and then powerslammed, superfly splashed, and pinned.

Mr Canada1I was 39 when Mr. Canada made his debut – not exactly in the springtime of my youth – and I often get asked how in the world I ended up in the wrestling ring and why I thought it would be a good idea to do so. After all, the career trajectory of graduate school to tenure track job to tenure to professional wrestler is not exactly the most common one in the world of academia.

I’ll begin this blog entry answering these how and why questions, and then I’ll move to the questions I pondered for months after my 2013 wrestling debut: what new lessons about pro wrestling did I learn when I moved from careful observer of professional wrestling to actual professional wrestler – when I broke the fourth wall in reverse (so to speak)? Did this experience give me new insights into a cultural form that I previously appreciated only as a fan and a scholar?

Before They Were Superstars: CM Punk and Samoa Joe

Before They Were Superstars

One would become the “Best in the World” and the other the “Samoan Submission Machine,” but before all of their nicknames and accolades, they were simply CM Punk and Samoa Joe. In 2004 they had a trilogy of matches that would make them legends and help make Ring of Honor one of the best independent wrestling promotions in the world.

Samoa Joe was in the midst of a dominating run as the world champ of ROH that spanned most of 2003 and showed no signs of stopping in 2004. He had turned away such challengers as Christopher Daniels, Jay & Mark Briscoe, Homicide, AJ Styles, and many others.

To be honest, Ring of Honor seemed to be running out of challengers for Joe. This is where CM Punk comes in. He and Joe had a non-title match on August 16th where both men were in pretty rough shape. The match ended with Joe beating Punk. Punk had yet to have a world title shot in his time in ROH and in Dayton, OH on June 12th, 2004, at World Title Classic, that would change. Punk and Joe had a match that ended in a 60 minute draw.

Before They Were Superstars: Seth Rollins and Kevin Owens

Before They Were Superstars

Hello, and welcome to the first installment of Before They Were Superstars, where I’ll be discussing the matches and angles that current WWE superstars were involved in before they debuted in the WWE. Many of today’s current WWE superstars were not always in the WWE. A lot of them started on the independent wrestling circuit where they honed their craft in front of smaller crowds.

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Image credits: http://www.wwe.com/shows/raw/2017-01-02/gallery/seth-rollins-vs-kevin-owens-photos#fid-40076253

They’re currently known as Kevin Owens and Seth Rollins, but they once went by Kevin Steen and Tyler Black respectively. Before they battled each other for the WWE Universal Championship, they were both affiliated with Ring of Honor (ROH). Back in 2010, they were both involved in separate angles in ROH, and on one night in July, they crossed paths in Chicago Ridge, IL.